At Propra, Principal Product Manager, Alberto Calvo, knows a thing or two about managing product development from scratch. We chatted with him about his professional journey and experience as an early hire at a disruptive PropTech company.



guides the discovery, development, and agenda of our software as we further build it, prioritizing what features to add next and what steps to take regarding customer and market needs.

He has 10+ years of experience as an entrepreneur and employee in international firms. Alberto also has experience in product roles in property management, digital strategy and marketing, banking, security, and corporate sustainability. Previous organizations he has worked with include Ernst & Young, Citibank, Securitas, and his own consulting firm, Calvur Digital Consulting.

Alberto also has a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from Queen’s University, a Bachelor’s in Industrial Engineering and he recently started the “Alberta Product Leadership Program” and SVPG’s Product Leadership Workshop: EMPOWERED,  this December, a career accelerator for Alberta-based Product Management Professionals.


Q: Tell me a little bit about your background.

I was born and raised in Costa Rica. My background is in industrial engineering. I completed a bachelor’s plus a degree called Licenciatura, which is pretty much the equivalent of a master's. Once I finished my studies, I started working for Citigroup, where I worked in product-related roles. It was around 2011, and at that time the role of “product manager” didn’t really exist in the company. I worked with internal stakeholders, discovering their problems, analyzing their data, building business cases, and working with our developers to build solutions and automate financial processes and products. I did that for about five years before I decided that I wanted to work in a role where I’d have access to external clients and round up my business skills.

From Citigroup, I transitioned to a role at the Swedish security company, Securitas. My role there was to develop and lead a new business line while building a new product offering from scratch. It was a great experience, and as a mid-size company, I got to learn the dependencies between teams and how to better work together, as I got a broader perspective on how an organization works. Connecting the dots and handling topics from human resources to procurement and legal. This role triggered the entrepreneur in me.

That’s when I left the company to partner with a Citigroup ex-colleague and provide digital strategy and implementation services. This was an accelerated learning phase for me, as you know, for any entrepreneurship project, you have to hustle and move fast if you want to succeed. I did that for about a couple of years, working with clients across Latin America and North America before I worked for EY’s corporate sustainability services. At EY, I worked with clients both in the discovery and implementation phases, which involved program creation/management and building a digital ESG data collection and reporting product.

Having worked with clients in North America and knowing that I wanted to continue growing within the tech space I decided to leave Latin America and pursue the Queen’s MBA, where I specialized in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, founded the Sustainability Club, and organized a digital case competition with 150 students from 7 business schools across Canada to solve local sustainability challenges. That was one of my favorite experiences during my MBA.

The whole MBA experience confirmed how much I enjoy leveraging technology to solve people’s problems. Knowing what I wanted, I started to search for innovative startups looking to disrupt markets. That’s when I met Craig and Al-Karim and it was a no-brainer! Being relatively new to Canada, I didn’t know much about Calgary, but I knew I believed in the team and the vision. And who doesn’t enjoy being close to the Rockies? That’s how my journey at Propra started. Now I can call Calgary my home.

Q: What has your experience been as one of the first hires at an early-stage startup?

It’s been really fast-paced and that's something that I like. No two days are the same. As expected in startups, as a product manager, I’m not only focused on product manager-related tasks. I’m involved in customer success and implementation management. Wearing multiple hats adds a ton of value, as you are able to process insights from different angles.

Our team culture is also key to keep moving forward. That’s why our leadership team makes sure that we just don’t bring smart people in, but personable and motivated people. Being surrounded by proactive and self-starter individuals is motivating - indispensable for a startup environment where there’s uncertainty by default. We all have each other’s backs and that cohesion is tough to find in larger enterprises.

Clear communication with our clients has been vital to making sure we are solving the right problems at the right time. Getting that feedback from our clients letting us know how we are saving them time and automating the processes has been rewarding as we expand our product offering and continue getting traction. It has been challenging, but I believe challenges push us to grow as a person/professional.

Q: What does your day-to-day look like?

There are no two days that are the same, there’s no standard day-to-day. I prefer to look at it as specific goals or tasks that you have to achieve by a specific date, and then you manage your time and effort to make that happen.

Have you heard about Mike Tyson’s quote “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”? You can have a daily plan but you have to be flexible and adapt as you can’t control external factors that you will need to deal with.

In terms of product-related tasks, I have to distribute my time among product discovery, managing our development board, prioritizing features, market research, maintaining client relationships, supporting the onboarding of new clients, collaborating closely with our design and development teams, and meeting with our leadership team and stakeholders.

Q: Managing product development from scratch, there are a lot of competing priorities. What are some of the challenges that come with that?

The initial challenge was not having access to active customers. Therefore, I had to leverage insights from the market, our team’s industry knowledge and feedback collected from sales meetings and live demos. Once we onboarded clients and got access to an advisory board, things started to move smoother.

Another challenge is recruiting the right people and growing our engineering team. Finding talented individuals with the right culture fit and willing to get into the high-risk, high-reward game, is not an easy task.

Q: As Propra continues to grow, what are some things users can look forward to?

Propra is a new entrant to the Canadian property management market, and we are making an impact within the industry with our software, and fast. We’re all about making the usability of this software easy for users – it’s fully automated for property management functions, streamlined for internal processes amongst property management teams, and allows maintenance teams to prioritize tasks and workflows.

Users can look forward to Propra continuing to elevate the resident and landlord experience, offering a reliable, simple end-to-end solution. Things are moving really quickly here and we’re constantly looking at ways that we can save people time and money whilst improving the entire rental experience. We are listening to what our users want and need, and have the agility to act on it quickly.


To learn more about working at Propra and how we’re improving tenant satisfaction and asset value for property owners and managers, view our open roles